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Blues Man From Memphis -- more from the Musical Mind of Donald Brown by Knoxville Jazz Orchestra

Educator, pianist, and one-time member of Art Blakey’s fabled Jazz Messengers, this endeavor showcases Donald Brown’s formidable compositional acumen. He’s the pianist and producer of this date, as three pieces were recorded live in Knoxville and the remainder signify studio sessions, all featuring the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra and eminent guest soloists. And while the Memphis blues edge remains steeped within the underlying frameworks, the arrangements are firmly nestled within the jazz big band vein.

On this release, Brown along with arrangers Bill Mobley and Vance Thompson guide the orchestra through somber passages, teeming with multihued contrasts, boisterous head charts and more. It’s a divergent mix, where the artists zoom in on the breadth and scope of Brown’s largely memorable comps, counterbalanced by zinging, punchy horns arrangements and a relaxed gait. One of the many highlights includes Brown’s minor-classic piece titled "Theme For Malcolm," which was recorded on trumpeter Donald Byrd’s 1989 date titled "Taking Care Of Business." Here, the quasi jazz-waltz/tango and ostinato based melody is caressed, expounded upon and consummated via a potpourri of polytonal choruses, including vibist Stefon Harris’s peppery solo spot.

The big band tradition is instilled as the orchestra renders the proverbial peaks and valleys, yet temper the flow a bit on the slow-tempo swing vamp titled "The Thing About George Coleman." And without further research, it would be a safe bet that Brown coined this one for the great jazz tenor saxophonist. On this piece he steers the band through a sleek e-piano motif followed by a blues-driven pace and subsequently capped-off by the brash horns choruses. A top-flight and irrefutably happening program, indeed....

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Knoxville Jazz Orchestra
  • CD Title: Blues Man From Memphis -- more from the Musical Mind of Donald Brown
  • Genre: Big Band / Swing
  • Year Released: 2007
  • Record Label: Blue Canoe Records
  • Musicians: Donald Brown (piano/producer), Stefon Harris (vibes), John Clayton (bass), Gregory Tardy (saxophones), Vance Thompson (trumpet/leader), Bill Mobley (arranger) + the KJO Big Band Members
  • Rating: Four Stars
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